Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says she hopes to use some of the potential savings identified in a new efficiency study to give raises to municipal employees in departments like public works and planning, among others.
But she says it’s too soon to say when that might happen or how much workers could hope to see.
“Police right now are on the forefront,” Broome says. “But while we focus on police we’re not forgetting about the others. … And while I can’t say we’re going to give raises right now, I can say raises are a priority.”
Late last month, Broome’s administration released the results of a police pay study—which is separate from the efficiency study—showing police salaries in Baton Rouge lag behind those of peer cities by as much as 40%. The study suggests it will cost $21 million to bring them in line with where they need to be.
Broome has long said raising police salaries are one of the goals of her administration.
Now that the efficiency study has identified as much as $7 million in potential savings in just one year across multiple city departments, Broome says it’s possible the city could divert some of the savings to the BRPD for salary increases.
But it’s also possible some of that money could be used to help boost the pay of city workers in other departments, whom Broome acknowledged are grossly underpaid.
“We have some city employees who have to work two jobs just to make ends meet,” she says. “That’s not acceptable.”
It’s not efficient or good for economic development either. The permits department is so chronically understaffed, in part because it cannot afford to retain qualified plan reviewers, it is farming out some of its plan review services to an outside firm.
The Planning Department, meanwhile, is down four planners, which is 40% of its professional staff. Planning Director Frank Duke has blamed it on the department’s low salaries, which are 30% below those of New Orleans and Lafayette.
“We need to look at our departments,” Broome says. “If we’re going to be a progressive city then we have to hire people for positions that can help us deliver.”
But she acknowledges there’s no plan yet in place to make it happen and says before any savings from greater efficiencies are diverted elsewhere, the changes required to make those savings to materialize—surplus property sales or changes to fleet management, for instance—have to be successfully executed first.
“We don’t have any savings yet to spend” she says. “Even once we do, we have to be very careful about what we do with it.”